Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Kickstarter: GestureR - Arduino-compatible Gesture Sensing Module

March 2014

GestureR is an Arduino-compatible gesture sensing module that brings you to your DIY devices, with one of the latest technologies in smartphones!  GestureR will be the first gesture sensing shield you can find in the market. It is also very tiny, inexpensive and user-friendly! All Hardware Design will be open source. GestureR can communicate with any Arduino Host or other microcontrollers through I2C interface. Check out their Kickstarter to reserve your GestureR!


There are unlimited ways to use GestureR.

  •     GestureR + Relay Shields = Touchless Power Switch?
  •     GestureR + IR Controller Shields = Smart Remote?
  •     GestureR + LED Panel Shields = Smart Lamp?

And even more! Now you can expand your imagination and achieve more with GestureR!

WHY GestureR?

  •     Advantages of gaining prototype samples from supplier so that we can work on it in advance and manufacture GestureR as soon as possible
  •     Unlike traditional gesture sensors, that require a few external IR LEDs, GestureR does everything in ONE tiny package.
  •     No annoying datasheet reading is needed.
  •     No calibration is required.

    With so many advantages, it’s CHEAP.

Rewards for backers:

Posted on 03/14 at 9:59 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Kickstarter: MicroView: Chip-sized Arduino with built-in OLED Display

March 2014

The MicroView is the first chip-sized Arduino compatible that lets you see what your Arduino is thinking using a built-in OLED display. You've never seen an Arduino™ compatible like this. With a built-in OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode Display) you can see what your Arduino is thinking without having to connect it to your computer. No more cryptic "Hello World" LED blink sequences or shoehorning oversized displays onto your tiny Arduino™. Development is much easier when you can see what's going on.


In addition to the built-in tutorials, we've also built a cross platform course that runs on iPad, Microsoft Surface and modern Web Browsers on Windows, Mac and Linux.

The course takes you step by step through building a 11 different circuits including:

  •     Blinking LEDs and creating different colors on an RGB LED.
  •     Getting readings from a potentiometer (a fancy name for a knob).
  •     Taking the input from a push button.
  •     Sensing Temperature and Light
  •     Controlling actuators relays, motors & servos
  •     Making sound

The interactive course is included within the "Learning Kit" and "Educators Kit" rewards tier.


Check out the MicroView Kickstarter now to reserve yours!

Posted on 03/14 at 10:32 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

March 29th is Arduino Day 2014!

March 2014

Arduino Day is a worldwide celebration of Arduino’s first 10 years. It's 24 hours full of events – both official and independent, anywhere around the world – where people interested in Arduino can meet, share their experiences, and learn more. Keep an eye on the map on the Arduino Day website: new events will be added as they are approved. Find the one that’s closest to your home or your interests, and follow the link to find out all the details!

About Arduino Day

Arduino Day is a worldwide celebration of Arduino’s first 10 years. It's 24 hours full of events – both official and independent, anywhere around the world – where people interested in Arduino can meet, share their experiences, and learn more.

Who can participate?

Arduino invites all Arduino user groups, makerspaces, hackerspaces, fablabs, associations, teachers, pros, and newbies to participate. Let’s make this the biggest birthday party yet!

What can you do during Arduino Day?

You can attend any event or organize one for your community.

It doesn’t matter whether you are an expert or a newbie, an engineer, designer, crafter or maker: Arduino Day is open to anyone who wants to celebrate Arduino and all the things that have been done (or can be done!) with it.

The events set up by independent organizers will offer different types of activities, tailored to local audiences all over the world.


Posted on 03/14 at 3:25 pm
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

A MAKER’S DOZEN: Designing Around Failure

April 2014 Bryan Bergeron

I just finished a major production run of simulators for training physicians on how to examine the eye. I needed to deliver 10 units, so I started with 13 mannequins — each with highresolution LCD screens for the backs of the eyes (retinae), an Arduino, and a custom interface board. In addition, I printed holders and mounting brackets for the LCD and each of the two boards. Add to that about 30 wire-wrap connections for power, an LED indicator, and interconnecting the major boards, and you have a recipe for guaranteed failure. The only question was the success rate.

For this project, there were several sources of failure. For starters, two of the custom boards were DOA. It turned out the manufacturer used an NPN transistor in the output circuit when a PNP was called for. I had to contact the manufacturer and arrange for replacements. Not a major problem, but it took several days for the supplier to provide the replacement parts. Then, there was operator error. I flipped a green and blue pair when wire-wrapping the LCD to the Arduino on one of the simulators. With a wire-wrap tool, this was an easy quick fix.

Slightly more problematic was my MakerGear M2. It performed superbly when printing the circuit board holders in PLA, but when I switched to ABS plastic, output quality became erratic. After a bit of experimenting, I found that increasing the platform temperature a few degrees solved the problem. As I've learned on several models of 3D printers, these problems are to be expected. Still, each failure cost time — each component required two to three hours to print. As it was, the printer was cranking nearly 24/7 for a week to make the delivery deadline.

In the end, I delivered 10 units on time. Within a week of that, I had repaired the additional three units, which I maintain for backup and quick replacement. Based on my failure rate, I'd say that a proper maker's dozen is 13.5 units. That is, if you need to make a dozen relatively complex devices, order enough spare parts for 1.5 additional units.

You might be wondering how any business could succeed with such a high failure rate. After all, if one in 10 or so consumer electronics products failed, then there wouldn't be much of a consumer electronics industry. A difference between DIY and commercial electronics is that DIY components are often seconds and the overall design specifications shift over time.

Consider the 3D printer, for example. After the first print of a given component, I inevitably modified the model to improve it. Adding a brace to a thin wall, moving a mounting hole, or simply changing the color of the PLA filament has risks. In addition, not all PLA is created equal. I've found that the inexpensive bulk PLA on eBay simply isn't as good as the more expensive PLA filament from the print manufacturer. I don' know if it's the chemical composition, the diameter, or variation in some other parameter, but I do know that the PLA from MakerGear produces consistently better prints.

If you're building one-offs, you might not notice this relatively high failure rate. It's worth considering if you're building a number of units for, say, a club or classroom. Plus, when it comes to DIY, it's not really a "failure rate" but a learning opportunity. After all, you're not going to learn much if your experiments always work. On the contrary, if you're DIYing is 100% successful, then you're not pushing the edge hard enough. Good luck with all your DIY projects. NV

Posted on 03/14 at 9:43 am
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Kickstarter: The Open Enigma Project

March 2014

You can use it to simply display a scrolling marquee of any text message on its unique LED screen or encrypt/decrypt any information you wish using (still today) a very secure key. This is an ideal device to teach or learn about encryption, history & math. Because of its open software & the community of developers, the possibilities are endless & your reward is bound to increase in value over time as new applications (like e-mail encryption, secure router, etc) are written.

The original (pre-war) Enigma code was initially broken in Poland and subsequently by a team of Bletchley Park cryptologists under the leadership of U.K.'s own Alan Turing who is one of the fathers of computer science. Bletchley Park's ability to break the Enigma code is believed to have shortened World War II by about 2 years. Enigma machines are an extremely rare and important part of computing history.  A real Enigma machine sold for $200,000 in 2011.

  • $125 BAREBONES DIY KIT: For a pledge of $125, you get the absolute minimum components to build your own Open Enigma. This includes both boards, all LEDs, pushbuttons/caps, pins, resistors, on/off switch, and mosfets. It does NOT include an Arduino Mega, batteries, battery holder, battery connector, charger, laser cut/engraved top plate or alpha labels. You supply your own 9 Volt battery & connector.

Estimated delivery: Jul 2014

Add $50 USD to ship outside the US

  • $250 ELECTRONICS DIY KIT: For a pledge of $250, we will send you both PCBs, and all the electronics components (including an Arduino Mega compatible board) to make your own Open Enigma. No plugboard in this kit. You supply your own wood box/enclosure!

Estimated delivery: Jul 2014

Add $50 USD to ship outside the US



Interested in backing the Open Enigma Project? Check out their Kickstarter.

Posted on 03/14 at 3:56 pm
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

Know Your Basics

March 2014 Bryan Bergeron

One of my ongoing activities is working with a DoDfunded research team that is developing an open source model of the human body. In a few years, a professor should be able to teach medical students how, for example, the lungs work without sacrificing an animal. The interesting point about this project — which involves computer scientists, engineers, physicians, and physiologists — is that the common language is simple discrete component electronics.

For example, in developing a model of the lungs, we represent each lung with a diode, a few resistors, and a capacitor. That's it. Add AC or DC driving signals, and the current and voltage swings mimic the pressures and flows in the lungs.

The take-away of this illustration is that it's important for you to learn the basics. I'm talking Ohms Law, serial and parallel discrete components, and simple signal sources. This might seem self-evident, but since the introduction of the increasingly popular microcontrollers and standard sensors and effectors, it's possible to create electronic devices without ever touching a capacitor or resistor. Why use a pull-up resistor when microcontrollers (such as the Arduino) allow you to specify pull-ups in software?

Of course, if your time is limited and you have a specific project in mind, you want a solution as soon as possible. However, if your goal is to master the art of electronics, then you need to understand the basics. Ten years from now when the current generation of microcontrollers — and your knowledge of their specifics — is worthless, there will be applications for Ohms Law and basic circuitry. As illustrated by my experience working with scientists from varied backgrounds, basic circuitry can be a Rosetta Stone for communications — second only to pure mathematics.

So, let's say you're sold on the concept of getting a solid foundation in the basics. Just how do you get this grounding? Well, in addition to the occasional introductory articles in Nuts & Volts, check out the classics such as one of the introductory texts from Forrest Mims III ( Then, there's the timeless Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill. If you're not into reading, there are dozens of introductory electronics tutorials on YouTube.

These passive sources of information are all perhaps necessary, but by no means sufficient to get you where you need to be. You need some hands-on experience to ground your theoretical understanding of basic electronics. Pick up a kit that uses discrete components — one that lets you easily substitute the components. Another route is to tear down every electronic device you can get your hands on.

Don't let any electronic device that is destined for the landfill escape your pliers and soldering iron. Take notes and take hostages (remove components for repurposing). Try to figure out the underlying circuit and create a schematic. Then, try to improve on the basic circuit design.

Once you've achieved this level of success, you've mastered the basics. NV

Posted on 02/14 at 2:37 pm
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

The Arduberry

February 2014

The Arduberry is a simple and inexpensive way to bring Arduino shields to the Raspberry Pi.  The device is a shield that slides over the Raspberry Pi and allows you to stack and use Arduino shields.  The Arduberry requires no physical configuration to work with most shields.  You can write Arduino sketches (programs) right on your Raspberry Pi. The Arduberry will bring the Raspberry Pi and Arduino together, uniting the two greatest hacking systems ever.


So What Exactly Is It?

The Arduberry is a shield for the Raspberry Pi that connects Arduino Shields.  You can think of it almost as an Arduino, built for the Raspberry Pi.  The Arduberry connects to the Raspberry Pi with the standard 26 pin header.  The shield has an Arduino UNO-compatible microcontroller on it, as well as standard pins for an Arduino shield.

The Arduberry requires virtually no hardware setup: slip it onto the Raspberry Pi and go.  It ships ready to work.  The Arduberry comes fully assembled, and you won't need to make any changes to the hardware (no pinning, no batteries, no nothing!).

The Arduberry microcontroller can be programmed to run on it's own and access Arduino shields.  Shields that use digital communications can be accessed directly by the Raspberry Pi, while shields that use digital or analog pins can be controlled by the Arduino.  The Arduino chip on the Arduberry can communicate directly with the Raspberry Pi with no extra setup required.


If you're interested in getting the Arduberry - check out their Kickstarter!

Posted on 01/14 at 3:38 pm
Posted in: Nuts and Volts


January 2014

Phonebloks is a vision for a phone worth keeping. We want a modular phone that can reduce waste, is built on an open platform and made for the entire world. We are keen on finding the right partners and people to build this phone. We set up an online platform where you can share your thoughts, ideas and feedback. We believe that together we can make the best phone in the world. Visit to learn about a phone worth keeping!

Posted on 01/14 at 2:11 pm
Posted in: Developing Perspectives

Night Meeting

February 2014 Bryan Bergeron

When Google announced that it had purchased Boston Dynamics, I couldn't help but think of Ray Bradbury's tale of Night Meeting, from his Martian Chronicles. The story begins when a man from Earth and a Martian encounter each other on a desolate road one night on Mars. The man is driving an old pickup truck, while the Martian is driving a multi-legged vehicle. They look out on the landscape and realize that they come from different times, but they can't determine which of them is from the future and which is from the past.

There's a lot more to the story, of course, but the metaphor of legged and wheeled vehicles passing in the night seems relevant to the Google-Boston Dynamics deal. Of course, Google is the company behind the driverless car that promises to make the steering wheel as useful as your appendix. Then, there's Boston Dynamics, the creator of the Army Mule, Big Dog, Cheetah, and other four-legged robots that can manage rough terrain that would stop a wheeled vehicle in its tracks. If you check out the Army Mule on YouTube, you'll hear that the gas-powered engine needs a bit of muffling before it can be used in a stealth operation, but otherwise, it seems up to the task of hauling gear.

I don't see multi-legged vehicles replacing the fourwheeled car any time soon, but cars aren't the only vehicles in use today. More and more "personal" vehicles are making their way onto sidewalks, in stores, and in the malls. These motorized carts and wheel chairs often require the user to detour onto ramps because they can't navigate steps or escalators. Perhaps there's something in a multi-legged vehicle that would provide value over and above the transportation provided by an ordinary motorized buggy.

For military purposes, there's the obvious advantage of a pack mule that can carry heavy loads and, eventually, serve as a vehicle for soldiers. For the soldiers who lose one or both legs in battle, riding a weaponized robotic mule into battle might be one way to contribute to the fight. For civilian purposes, imagine the spinoffs of the legged technology — from chairs that gently raise or lower an elderly or injured person, to walking assistants that either carry or guide the person to their destination.

One thing's for certain — we're bound to see spinoffs of the technology appear at our favorite online suppliers. I can't wait to get my hands on what I can only imagine is the sensor technology used by the Mule to maintain balance. Then, there's the camera system used to track the terrain. I don't know what sort of gasoline-powered generator is used in the Mule, but I'm sure that I can think of ways to repurpose the technology for other projects.

For now, I have no desire to be transformed into a bionic Centaur, but in another 30 years or so when my joints are arthritic from all those marathons, I may have a different opinion. It's good to have options, and that's certain to come from the Google-Boston Dynamics venture. NV

Posted on 01/14 at 2:52 pm
Posted in: Nuts and Volts

Arduino Powered Robo-Raptor

January 2014

Bob Davis has been working on rebuilding a Robo Raptor to be controlled by an Arduino.  It is a key project in his latest book "Arduino Robotics Projects" available on Amazon. The arduino powered roboraptor now has a better roar and his mouth opens and closes.

Posted on 01/14 at 11:18 am
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